Walking back from the river, Matt, cold and wet, could hear Clem and St. Louis talking before he and Adam reached the camp. Clem's face was lit by firelight as he stirred a pot of stew, now and then gazing toward the river. With the glare of the campfire, it had to be too dark to see much of anything.
"Ya worried about them boys of ours?" St. Louis asked.
"Nah. Just wondered when they'd be getting back," Clem answered and then looked up as Matt and Adam walked into the circle and headed straight for the fire, dripping water, their boots squeaking.
Clem watched them for a moment. "Where's the fish?" he asked when he could obviously stand waiting for the answer no longer.
"In the river," Adam said tersely. He knelt by the fire, holding his hands up to the warmth.
Matt eased himself to the ground, stretching out his leg in an attempt to find a comfortable position.
"All of 'em?" asked Clem finally.
"You see any fish on us?" Matt retorted, edging a little closer to the fire.
Clem chorted. "You two got skunked!"
Adam grimaced with distaste. "Can't you think of a better word for it? Besides it wasn't my fault."
"It wasn't?" challenged Matt.
"I had it hooked!"
Matt snorted. "Ah yes, hooked. That's the trouble with that funny lookin' pole of yours. It doesn't do you any good to hook them if you can't bring them to shore." He enunciated his words carefully, as though speaking to a slow-witted man.
"How'd you two get wet?" Clem asked, looking from one soaked figure to the other.
"He thought it was one way to land the fish," Matt quipped when he saw Adam wasn't going to answer.
"I did not.”
Clem handed them each a cup of coffee.
Matt took a restoring sip of the hot brew. "You saw that fish slipping off, and you lunged for it." Matt shook his head as he added, "Thanks to my bum leg, he knocked me in at the same time."
"You damned near broke my pole," Adam accused, his eyes flashing.
"And you damned near drowned me." Matt shook his head with disbelief as he looked at Clem and St. Louis. "Got me tangled up in that funny line of his, thought I'd never get back to shore."
"If I'd have gotten my hands around your neck, you wouldn't have," Adam muttered almost under his breath.
Matt smiled. "If I hadn't broken his line, I'd be in the bottom of the pool."
"I thought you did that on purpose. Do you have any idea how expensive good fly line is," Adam grumbled, staring moodily into the fire. He glared accusingly at Matt. "Why were you so close when I hooked him anyway?"
"I wasn't. You got buck fever, ran up the bank like a kid seeing a fish for the first time." Matt laughed at Adam's expression of suppressed outrage.
"I do not get buck fever," Adam snapped. He looked to St. Louis for confirmation. "Have you ever seen me get buck fever?"
"Nope, but then I ain't never seen ya go fishing neither." He stared into the campfire. "I seen a lot of good men lose their heads over trout. Craziest thing I ever seen the way men go nuts for fishin'. Good men just can't think of nothin' but catchin' a little bitty fish on a hook."
Matt and Adam glared at him with indignant faces. "Little bitty!" they growled, almost in unison, "you should've seen it!"
digital painting of my favorite fly fisherman on Miller Creek in Montana